Congress Trip to Cuba: A Salute to Congressman Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Congressman William Delahunt (D-MA) and Their Eight Colleagues

  • Let regional discussions not only be experienced in the Middle East and North Korea, but also in Cuba
  • A bipartisan delegation of ten members of the U.S. Congress are now visiting Cuba and represent a ray of rare hope that President George W. Bush will tolerate a modest beginning of a settlement of the age-old split between the two ancient foes
  • Washington should not only limit itself to pointing the way to a multilateral solution of the Iraq conflict within a context that simultaneously would inspire a generalized settlement of its disputes with Iran, Syria and North Korea. These difficult talks should be implemented under the prevailing belief that all quarrels can be subjected to good faith negotiations

The Bush administration has let it be known that the President would use his first veto since taking office to block any move to normalize relations with Havana. For Bush, the subject is non-negotiable, not because of Cuban intractability, but because of its financial and political ties to Miami’s Cubans. But, now the ten-member bipartisan delegation of the House is currently in Cuba beating a different drum. Increasingly, due to Cuba’s growing economic and political ties with a score of countries, such as Venezuela, China and Russia, in addition to a widening acceptance of Havana’s credentials throughout Latin America, the White House must today deal with the possibility of becoming isolated from the rest of the world, rather than Havana. Since the Bush administration faces a steady attrition of its world backers from its Cuba policy, save for its Miami boosters, it would be more prudent of them to look towards its Iraqi diplomacy and become more open to tolerating comprehensive settlements within a regional context, rather than the usually far more problematic task of staging bilateral talks.

Just as the Middle Eastern difficulties are often far too complex to be diffused by one-on-one talks, the same might be even more true when it comes to Cuba, and thus may invite the tragedy of failed negotiations. But, a comparison between these two regions of the world should remind us that Washington’s problems with its hemispheric neighbors transcend the bad blood that it possesses towards Cuba. Many other aspects of its policy are being challenged by other Latin American nations, based on issues such as trade, drug-trafficking, terrorism, interventionism, debt management and immigration issues.

These problems spring from contaminated U.S.-Latin American relations that were at their near low point ever since the end of World War II. This was brought about by two streams of development. The first was an ongoing trend of neglect and abusive behavior sanctioned by Washington due to its preoccupation of the prolonged Iraqi conflict. Another factor was the U.S. demand for nations in the region to join the Coalition of the Willing to participate in the war against the Taliban and Iraqi insurgents. Because of these factors, a number of nations in the Western Hemisphere were able to slip out of Washington’s embrace in favor of their new, non-traditional and pluralized relationships with nations throughout the world, some of which already share strained ties with the Bush administration.

As opportunities for Latin America to assert its autonomy from the U.S. expand, including the strengthening of links to new trading partners, Washington repeatedly enforces pressure tactics and purportedly has been conducting acts of intervention in almost every part of the hemisphere. The origins of this policy of harassment and threats were laid down by the Bush administration’s first head of its State Department Bureau for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Otto Reich, whose aggressive, if not offensive style, eventually induced the White House to replace him with another hard-right Miami approved ideologue, Roger Noriega.

Given that President Fidel Castro has been struck by a fatal illness, the justification of the U.S. to engage in an act of innovative diplomacy and lay down groundwork for the answer to the question of what a post-Castro Cuba looks like is long overdue. Whatever the answer, prospects for regional harmony would be far more attainable if Washington was to play an engaged and constructive role, rather than lurking around the fringes of events, which would be an obviously far more dangerous, less productive and unchartered game to play.

This administration is inviting a foreign policy disaster because it accurately reflects the instincts of a self-indulgent ideologue, who today occupies the White House with his smugness and small mindedness, which has further added to the quotient of unnecessary human suffering, be it in Cuba or Iraq.